Sure, it may not be growing as aggressively or rapidly as the European river cruise market, but the U.S. river cruise industry continues to see a steady number of new vessels being launched each year, the latest being a passion project of Cincinnati native Capt. Joseph Baer.
And while it’s always exciting to see new vessels coming online, to get the first sneak peeks at interior renderings and to witness the ways in which different companies are interpreting the U.S. river cruise experience onboard, what some of these new vessels symbolize is more than just new hardware; some are promising to take U.S. river passengers on entirely new river routes and new ports.
For instance, the 70-passenger paddlewheeler Grand Majestic, being launched by Baer’s Grand Majestic River Co. this fall, will reportedly be able to sail along some smaller inland waterways due to its shorter height and shallower draft. Baer said that the smaller size of the Grand Majestic means it can clear some bridges and sail in shallower waters that will enable it to cruise to or near Tulsa, Okla.; Omaha, Neb.; Sioux City, Iowa; Charleston, W.Va.; and into the outskirts of Chicago by next year.
American Cruise Lines, too, has said that it plans to look into some new and different waterways in the U.S. as it develops a fleet of five more modern riverboats for the U.S. market. The first two of those are slated to hit the more traditional Mississippi River System and the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest, but the company has previously said that it has its eye on numerous additional waterways, including the Sacramento River, San Joaquin River, Missouri River, Des Moines River, Wabash River, Illinois River, Apalachicola River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Mid-Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Erie Canal, Hudson River, Oswego Canal, Potomac River and Alaska’s Inside Passage.
Hopefully the trend will continue. Because while everyone wants to see places like New Orleans, Memphis and Portland, Ore., when it comes to U.S. river cruising, there is clearly still a fair amount of untapped potential in terms of where to go and what to see.